Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Robert Buettner's Orphanage was exactly what I was looking for; it was a quick read that provided solid military sci-fi in a compact package. It had a very clever twist, taking place about forty years from now, humanity has reached a comfortable (albeit complacent) existence. Complicity doesn't allow for huge technological advances however and when Earth is bombed out of nowhere by an unfathomable foe, they realize they've got a lot of catching up to do.
Jason Wander is the protagonist and this first book details his story from before enlistment, through basic training, and finally off to war. The clever part is humanity has to rely on incredibly outdated technologies at first. Wander is given BDU's leftover from WWII for basic as an example. He trains on a Vietnam-era M16.
The source of the attack is discovered on one of Jupiter's moons, Ganymede. How the attackers got there and why they're attacking Earth is all in the details, so I won't spoil it here. Needless to say, the one criticism I have about the book is it seems an awful lot like the theatrical version of Starship Troopers. It has its obvious differences, but boil it all down and its basically a different take on the same plot. Mind you, I loved Starship Troopers, so I was fine with that.
Wander isn't a cookie-cutter, two-dimensional book hero either and the rest of the cast do their best to avoid stereotypes. The united Earth force of mixed nations is handled rather well, and the technology is suitably believable and "near future". At the same it doesn't beat you over the head with it either.
My used copy was a loaner but had a $2.50 pricetag on it, well worth picking up. There's a whole series that follows but the author wraps up this book with an epilogue well into the future that will satisfy any "what happened with this..." queries. I have a soft spot for this book as well because it closely resembles a memorable d20 Modern/Future campaign we played in which similar events took our heroes to one of Saturn's moons, Titan. If you like realistic military sci-fi, chances are you'll like Orphanage, I did.